Category Archives: STONNINGTON JAZZ 2011

SYDNEY’S MOTHERSHIP LANDS BRIEFLY IN MELBS

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, Chapel Off Chapel, Monday, May 23 as part of Stonnington Jazz, 2011

Carl Morgan guitar; Hugh Barrett piano; Brendan Clarke contrabass; Jamie Cameron drums & cymbals; David Theak, Murray Jackson, Richard Maegraith, Mike Rivett, James Loughnan saxophones; Darryl Carthew, Angus Gomm, Simon Frenci, Ken Allars trumpets; Jeremy Borthwick, Lucian McGuiness, Danny Carmichael, Justin Kearin trombones; Kristin Berardi guest vocalist

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor conducts the Mothership in "Rationalisations".

An earlier post recorded Joseph O’Connor’s win in the 2011 National Big Band Composition Competition, with his piece Rationalisations. Runners up were (in no particular order) Cameron Earle and Alice Humphries. There were 22 entries, so making the finals was a significant achievement and conducting the JMO must have been a thrill. I arrived late (not following festival artistic director Adrian Jackson‘s advice to “read your program”), so I heard only part of Earle’s piece, Run Run. What I heard was vigorous and pretty full-on.

Alice Humphries conducts JMO in "The Mending"

Alice Humphries conducts JMO in "The Mending"

For the record, if I’d had to judge I would have favoured Humphries’ composition The Mending, which had a strong feeling from the beginning that it was heading somewhere as well as the light and shade evident also in Rationalisations. I love that feeling of tension and sense of momentum, especially from a big band. The Mothership Orchestra really delivered in all three competition pieces.

Band leader David Theak kept us in suspense during Mike Nock‘s piece Hadrian’s Wall, arranged by Murray Jackson, which began the second set. Then he announced the competition winner before the orchestra played Florian Ross‘s Teen Adventure, with solid solos from Mike Rivett and James Loughnan, and the trumpeter buried up the back on the right.

Kristin Berardi aboard the Mothership

Kristin Berardi aboard the Mothership

Then Kristin Berardi joined the band for Moonbeams (Berardi, arr. Florian Ross), Mr Jackson (Berardi, arr. Ross Irwin), My One and Only Love (Guy Wood, arr. Steve Newcomb) and Ode to Oli (Berardi, arr. Ross).

For a vocals skeptic, which I usually am, this was a valuable part of my education. Berardi’s gestures are compelling and her voice equally so, with depth, dynamic variation and range. I can’t write technically about vocalists, or much in music for that matter, but I found myself making a comparison (actually a contrast) between Berardi and Sarah McKenzie. They are, obviously, very different kettles of fish (do fish come in kettles?).

Berardi’s voice has something very distinctive and I warmed to that. I especially loved her song Mr Jackson, about a man in New York who had a lot to say. I felt it succeeded in conveying the feel of this man and could almost picture him rabbiting on. This piece was really swinging and highlights from the band included contributions by Hugh Barrett and Brendan Clarke, Jamie Cameron and a trombonist (not sure of his name).

Jazzhead has released an album entitled, predictably, Kristin Berardi Meets the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra.

Exciting trumpet: Ken Allars with Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra

Exciting trumpet: Ken Allars with Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra

The JMO finished the set with a premiere of Jackson’s composition Who Do You Think Of Now — in which his solo included some fantastic gobbledegook, squeaky, all-over-the-place stuff that can give you goosebumps, and Lucian McGuiness and Hugh Barrett made strong contributions — and Mr Dodo (Bert Joris), which began with some exciting horn from Ken Allars and followed with a tenor solo from Richard Maegraith before a really tight interlude leading back to Allars’ trumpet.

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra

Murray Jackson on sax, Richard Maegraith on flute with the Mothership Orchestra

I thought the audience could have scored an encore, but it wasn’t to be. Pity. The whole gig seemed to pass very quickly, but, when you take into account the work involved in rehearsing the competition compositions, this was a busy night for a big band that always seems to shine.

I really enjoyed what the band and conductors did with the three pieces in the first set. Second set highlights were Berardi’s Mr Jackson and the playing of Allars on trumpet.

I should get out to hear more big bands, such as Bennetts Lane Big Band and ATM15, but the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra can land in Melbs any time.

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VERSES FROM THE PAST

Allan Browne Quintet and Trio, Chapel Off Chapel, May 22, Stonnington Jazz 2011
Allan Browne drums, Eugene Ball trumpet, Phil Noy saxophone, Geoff Hughes guitar, Nick Haywood bass, Marc Hannaford piano

Given Allan Browne’s love of poetry and whimsical sense of humour — often displayed at Bennetts Lane on Monday evenings — I was expecting quite a bit of humour and maybe some of the stream-of-consciousness outpourings of that ilk at this gig. Instead we were treated to a trip down memory lane in quite a serious vein, with a fair amount of emotion amid the recollections, and some concise and deeply expressive verse. As well, the musical responses to Allan’s words were some of the most expressive compositions I’ve heard, though that was no surprise given the calibre and imagination of these musicians. Marc Hannaford, Eugene Ball, Geoff Hughes, Phil Noy and Al Browne were the originators of the music played in two sets that seemed to race past. Luckily, these evolving works will be recorded, and they should rank with suites such as The Drunken Boat, Une Saison En Enfer and Stu Hunter’s works The Gathering and The Muse (both of the latter to be played during this festival on Wednesday and Thursday this week).

Allan Browne

Allan Browne and Marc Hannaford

The pieces were tributes to artists Browne had played with and who had visited Australia. Marc Hannaford’s Suite for Swing Street was for pianist Teddy Wilson, who recalled for Allan the era of 42nd street and Kansas City big bands. His verse included the lines “The sound of art changing the brain, And the quip of course, It’s confectionery”.
I think the suite carried on into For Art Hodes, a late twenties pianist with whom Browne enjoyed “great kinship”. Hughes and Haywood had top solos in this. Eugene Ball’s A Short Verse for A Tall Man was for vibraphonist Milt Jackson, who AB described as “a tremendously swinging person”. After the piece he described Ball’s composition as having “an Ellington sound … lush”. Marc Hannaford’s solo stood out for me in this.

Eugene Ball, Geoff Hughes, Phil Noy

Eugene Ball, Geoff Hughes, Phil Noy

Before the break the ensemble played Firefly, Geoff Hughes’ tribute to Emily Remler, a “truly inspiring young guitarist” with whom AB said he had a similar close relationship apart from the music, but who “didn’t make it back to America”. She died at age 32 while on tour in Australia. One of her sayings was that despite her tiny frame “inside I’m a big black man”. This piece began with Hughes playing behind the words. Then came solos from Hughes, Ball, Haywood and Browne. Moving stuff.

Nick Haywood and Geoff Hughes

Nick Haywood and Geoff Hughes

After the break came Browne’s Wild Bill, for trumpet player Wild Bill Davison. AB recalled playing in the 100 Club in London when Davison came in, and launching into one of his pieces, Hysterics Rag. Davison played at the Limerick Arms in Melbourne with AB’s New Orleans band, but asked to sit in with his quartet, which was a lot different, and was happy because “normally I have to play with tubas and banjos”. Ball and Hannaford had solos in this.

Al Browne attentive to a Marc Hannaford solo

Al Browne attentive to a Marc Hannaford solo

The highlight of the night for me was Hannaford’s The Flooding, for pianist Mal Waldron. AB told of going to Sydney with bassist and close mate Gary Costello, very nervous about playing with Waldron and asking what they would be playing. “When I nod my head, just play”, was Waldron’s response, so they did — for more than an hour and then for another set after the break. “It was all completely different and a great introduction for me to playing free”, AB recalled. Marc Hannaford’s solo in this was a delight, and the following cacophony superb.

Marc Hannaford and Eugene Ball

Marc Hannaford and Eugene Ball

Phil Noy’s piece Johnny Griffin was a tribute to the tenor saxophonist AB described as “an amazing cat” and “totally happening”. He recalled playing Just Friends with Griffin, Paul Grabowsky and Gary Costello and Griffin “starting so far ahead of the beat that we ended up playing the whole thing at double time”. At the end, Griffin must have said, “Phew, that was not the tempo I expected.” AB said Griffin had influenced him tremendously and that being able to play Cherokee for 20 minutes was “handy these days when playing with (saxophonist) George Garzone“.

Allan Browne and Marc Hannaford

Allan Browne and Marc Hannaford

As soon as the applause died away to close the gig I wanted to have the band start all over so that I could hear Al Browne’s verses and again marvel at the strength of these compositions, which are so evocative and full of interest. We do have not only really talented musicians in this country, but composers overflowing with originality.

Geoff Hughes

Geoff Hughes (the red lighting was too much so I turned it off)

So that’s enough waxing lyrical. Another top Stonnington gig. Vastly different to the youthful vigour of Sarah McKenzie‘s opener, but deeply satisfying. It’s just a little sad that not more people get to hear this material, but as Allan Browne would point out, it’s available at gigs in Melbourne most nights and not only during festivals.

ROGER MITCHELL

Marc Hannaford

Marc Hannaford ... Look Mum, one hand.

NATIONAL BIG BAND COMPOSITION WINNER

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, Chapel Off Chapel, Monday, May 23 as part of Stonnington Jazz, 2011

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor conducts the Mothership in "Rationalisations".

Breaking news:

Joseph O’Connor from Queensland has won the 2011 National Big Band Composition Competition in a play-off hosted by Stonnington Jazz. He wins $3500 for his piece Rationalisations, which was performed by Sydney’s Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra as part of its national tour.

The other two finalists were Cameron Earl, who composed Run Run, and Alice Humphries, whose piece was titled The Mending.

The Orchestra performed the three pieces in their first set for the festival, following it with a set of some of the band members’ compositions and some by vocalist Kristin Berardi, who joined the band for four numbers.

Cameron Earl conducts JMO in "Run Run".

Cameron Earl conducts JMO in "Run Run".

The Finalists travelled to Melbourne to rehearse and conduct the JMO at the concert. All finalists receive music composition and notation software Finale 2011. The cash prize is provided courtesy of APRA.

There was stiff competition this year, with 22 compositions received. Cam MacCallister (now in Sydney) and Elliot Hughes from WA were given a special commendation, missing out by the narrowest of margins on being finalists.

JMO runs the big band composition competition in conjunction with APRA, ABC Classic FM, Intelliware (Finale) and JozzBeat.

More on the Mothership gig with Kristin Berardi soon.

ROGER MITCHELL

Alice Humphries conducts JMO in "The Mending"

Alice Humphries conducts JMO in "The Mending"